If you didn’t like Jeremy Lin already, try to resist the basketball star after seeing him butcher “A Whole New World” from Disney’s “Aladdin.”
The sweet and funny karaoke session is one of a handful of surprises in “Linsanity,” Evan Leong’s complimentary and workmanlike documentary about the Bay Area prep star turned NBA sensation. With seemingly unlimited access to the Lin family and footage from throughout Lin’s career, the film will be best received by two groups: Lin’s biggest fans, and non-sports fans who somehow missed the story the first time.
Lin was a state champion at Palo Alto High School, had more success at Harvard and bounced around the NBA, before he was inserted in the New York Knicks starting lineup in February 2012, and Linsanity ensued.
The biggest thing going against “Linsanity” is out of the filmmakers’ control. Less than two years ago, at the peak of Lin’s heroics, ESPN (and a few co-conspirators) obsessed about Lin to the point of overexposure. Many of the best stories in the documentary — sleeping on Landry Fields’ too-small couch, getting questioned by staff at the Warriors’ player’s entrance and facing racial taunts — will already be familiar to basketball fans.
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“Linsanity” is at its best when it uses the filmmakers’ access to go even deeper. Lin always seemed well-spoken, but he doesn’t normally let his guard down the way he did in the aforementioned karaoke scene.
Another highlight is Lin’s reaction to a question about Kobe Bryant, after Bryant dismissed Lin’s talents and was punished with a 38-point performance. Lin says he nearly slammed Kobe back in a news conference, but prayed on it in the moment, and came up with a more gracious response. The scene is deftly handled by Leong and editor Greg Louie, and offers solid insight into the player’s humility and strength of faith.
Leong covers Lin’s life chronologically, with heavy emphasis on his pre-NBA years. The plodding buildup seems like a detriment at first, but the slow start enhances the payoff. You may have watched Lin’s rise to national prominence the first time, but it’s still easy to get caught in the moment.